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When registered nurses (RNs) want to master new nursing skills and advance in their careers, they often pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A requirement in many states, BSN degrees give nurses more competitive job opportunities and prepare them to work with diverse patient populations. Nurses who have completed RN programs or hold an associate degree in nursing (ADN) are excellent candidates for an RN-to-BSN program. RN-to-BSN programs apply previous nursing coursework and experience to a bachelor’s degree, allowing nurses to complete flexible courses in as few as one or two years — less than half the time it takes to complete a standard BSN. In 2023, registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree earned a median annual wage of $86,070, preparing them to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to earn $129,480 as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists.

In 2023, the cost of an RN-to-BSN program was between $3,885 and $12,300. The cost depends on the credits a student has, how long it takes to complete the program, and any room and board requirements.

How to Choose an RN-to-BSN Program

Choose your area of study

Most RN-to-BSN programs provide students with a broad study of general education, medicine, and nursing practices. Since these programs focus on nursing fundamentals across many disciplines, the area of study you choose depends on the type of nurse you are or would like to become. Find a nursing school or an institution with a school of nursing that specializes in your nursing focus — for example, a clinical nurse, critical care nurse, or neonatal nurse, among others.

Research schools and programs

Ensure your degree program is accredited by institutional and programmatic agencies approved by the Department of Education so that you can transfer credits between programs. Look for institutions accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and programs accredited by agencies like the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Credits from RN-to-BSN programs can also be transferred to BSN-to-MSN programs later if earning a master’s degree is part of your educational plan.

Prepare for tests and applications

Most RN-to-BSN programs require minimum scores on general education entrance tests, such as the SAT and ACT. They also typically require applicants to take nursing entrance tests, such as the National League for Nursing Pre-Admission Exam (PAX) and the Nursing Entrance Test (NET), and students regularly take additional certification exams throughout the program.

In addition to entrance tests, plan to compile the following for your RN-to-BSN program:

  • A personal statement or letter of intent detailing your nursing experience
  • Sealed transcripts from previous nursing degrees and programs
  • Evidence of your nursing license and certification
  • Letters of recommendation from colleagues in the medical field, particularly head nurses or charge nurses

Select your program

Most RN-to-BSN programs are available through an institution’s nursing school or school of continuing studies. Choose the program that fits your educational and career needs, as an RN-to-BSN program is designed to advance your career and deepen your nursing knowledge.

Once you’ve chosen a few programs to explore, tour the schools virtually or in person. Meet program graduates and ask what they liked about their time there. If you plan to live on campus, research housing options and find out if local hospitals and clinics regularly hire graduates from your desired programs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Before you decide which RN-to-BSN program you’d like to pursue, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn how much aid you can apply toward your nursing education. This will help you determine which programs make the most financial sense.

Check on nursing scholarships designed for nurses in RN-to-BSN programs, and research employer tuition assistance to see if your current employer can help with your transition to a BSN. Contact your school’s financial aid office to see if they have additional tips or advice when paying for an RN-to-BSN program.

Best 50 Accredited RN-to-BSN Degree Programs

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Lakeview College of Nursing

San Diego State University

Rhode Island College

University of Detroit Mercy

Curry College

University of Texas Health Science Center

University of Alabama in Huntsville

Tarleton State University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

Our list includes both online and in-person options; however, clinical portions of this degree must be completed in person.

All of the schools featured in this guide are regionally accredited, and these programs also have accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing (ACEN). This ensures that you will receive a high-quality education and be prepared for your future career.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From an RN-to-BSN Program?

Because the coursework assumes students have a nursing background, clinical hours are a major part of the curriculum. RN-to-BSN courses have minimal tests so that students can focus on preparing for certification exams throughout the program. Classes, lectures, and clinical shifts are often led by experienced nurses who guide students through the latest technology and medical education.

Potential courses you’ll take in an RN-to-BSN program

  • Biology. Nursing students apply the fundamentals of biological sciences to a hands-on course that connects human biology, anatomy, and physiology. They study the systems of the human body and health, illness, and injury scenarios.
  • Chemistry. Students review the basics of previous chemistry classes, including matter and weight, chemical reactions, and acids and bases, and build upon their understanding of organic and biological chemistry concepts.
  • Nursing Theory. Using their previous experience and understanding of nursing, students explore how nurses contribute to their patients’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They work with various patient populations, including families and elderly care, and reflect their differences.
  • Information Technology. Students learn to analyze and apply different types of medical information technology to their nursing practice. They manage and gather information from nursing research resources, input patient data, and reach evidence-based conclusions.

RN-to-BSN Degree Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an RN-to-BSN program?

The best way to apply to an RN-to-BSN program is to check the program website. It will list important information like application requirements, course prerequisites, and application deadlines. The website may also include an overview of courses applicants can expect to take, the skills required, and the benefits of taking your RN to the next educational level.

How much does an RN-to-BSN degree cost?

The cost of an RN-to-BSN program varies by your school’s location, how many credits you’re transferring from previous programs, and how long it will take you to finish. In 2023, tuition for an RN-to-BSN degree program was between $3,885 and $12,300, without housing or educational materials factored in. Contact a program representative to see how much it will cost, given your specific experience level.

How long does it take to earn an RN-to-BSN degree?

An RN-to-BSN degree requires about 120 credit hours. Without previous experience, a BSN degree program takes four years (just like other bachelor’s degree programs). However, RN-to-BSN programs offer flexibility and can potentially be finished in one to two years once your RN program credits transfer.

Students who’d like to earn their BSN in an even shorter amount of time may be able to fast-track their degree in programs that last only a few months. However, these intensive programs require a full-time commitment and many working nurses prefer the standard one- to two-year schedule.

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